Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

14 April 2014

Last issue


RSS feed RSS

Link to this issue
Share this issue

Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the rail staff of North Wales.

Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page. For the current list visit our Calendar.

April 2014

Thursday 17 April Locomotive Club of Great Britain  Norman Matthews "Steam in Central America"

Friday 25 April Great Western Society Tony Icke 'Around the regions in the sixties'

Saturday 26 April Excursion Chester Model Railway Club / FR Dee and Mersey: 'Somerset Coast Express' Hooton, Bache, Wrexham, Gobowen and Shrewsbury to Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Minehead.

Monday 28 April RCTS Merseyside, Chester & North Wales ‘South of the Border steam in the 50s and 60s’ by David Kelso, David travels from Kent to present a follow up to his  earlier North of the border presentation, including a period when he was resident in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

May 2014
Friday 2 May (change of date) Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association Excursion from Hooton, Chester and stations on the mid-Cheshire line to Dumfries, Kilmarnock and Ayr.

Thursday 8 May Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society 'The Deganwy Dock Story' Eric Smith

Saturday 10 May  Wirral O Gauge group open afternoon: 'We would like to invite model railway people to come along and bring a loco or just watch. We are also looking for new members to join us.' Unit 7, The Odyssey Centre, Corporation Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1HB on 10th May 2014 from 13.00 to 17.00. Admission £2. 2 rail F/s DC & DCC continuous tracks. More details can be obtained from Jenny Elliott on 0151 6530637 or j.elliott37[at]

Tuesday 13 May  8E Railway Association Les Nixon - Railways of Scotland.

Tuesday 13 May (Change of DateNorth Wales Railway Circle A.G.M.  followed by Members Videos, Prints, Slides, and Digital work in the Photo Competition.

Thursday 15 May Locomotive Club of Great Britain  AGM and Members/Visitors Slides & Digital Photos.

Saturday 24 May Steam on the Coast Vintage Trains Seaside Flyer hauled by steam loco 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe from Tyseley, Wolverhampton, Stafford and Crewe to Llandudno for the Llandudno Air Tattoo which is taking place that day.

June 2014

July 2014

Saturday 5 July North Wales Area Group of the N Gauge Society. Welsh N Gauge Model Railway Show. St Mary's and St John's Halls, Rosehill Street, Conwy. What?  -  The largest gathering of N Gauge model railway layouts in Wales Opening times  - 10.00am to 4.00pm Admission £4.00 adults  -  £3.00 concessions - Children under 15 Free when accompanied by a paying adult.

Sunday 27 July Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. 'North Wales Coast Express' Liverpool, Broad Green, Warrington BQ, Frodsham and Chester to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead.

Tuesday 29 July Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. Welsh Mountaineer. Preston, Warrington BQ, Frodsham and Chester to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

August 2014

Sunday 3 August  Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. North Wales Coast Express Crewe, Wilmslow, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Altrincham and Chester to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Diesel-hauled Crewe - Manchester.

Sunday 10 August  Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. North Wales Coast Express Crewe, Wilmslow, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Altrincham and Chester to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Diesel-hauled Crewe - Manchester.

Sunday 17 August Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. 'North Wales Coast Express' Liverpool, Broad Green, Warrington BQ, Frodsham and Chester to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead.

Tuesday 19 August Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. Welsh Mountaineer. Preston, Warrington BQ, Frodsham and Chester to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

September 2014

Tuesday 2 September Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. Welsh Mountaineer. Preston, Warrington BQ, Frodsham and Chester to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Sunday 7 September  Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. North Wales Coast Express Crewe, Wilmslow, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Altrincham and Chester to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Diesel-hauled Crewe - Manchester.

Saturday 20 September Steam on the Coast. Steam Dreams: Cathedrals Express. London - Holyhead.

It's a pleasant spring day on 7 April as 158 828 calls at Llanfair PG, pictured by Greg Mape. Activity in the background reveals that the 'iconic' James Pringle Weavers store is now open after extensive refurbishment following a fire in October 2013.

Measurement Train (1)

A Network Rail measurement train, 09:06 Derby - Crewe via Holyhead, provided some classic locomotive interest on the North Wales Coast line on 14 April, a welcome sight as the Valley Flask train seems to be in hibernation at present. The train was to-and-tailed by two consecutively-numbered Class 37 locos, 37 611 and 37 612. 611 was in the lead westbound through Rhyl, pictured (above) by Roly High.

37 612 on the rear, behind support coach 9523 is a former brake-second passenger vehicle (Roly High).

The westbound run near Talybont, east of Bangor (Alan Crawshaw).

More trains for the Cambrian

Transport Minister Edwina Hart has announced that from May 2015 four additional return services will operate between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, Mondays - Saturdays, providing an hourly service at peak morning and afternoon times. There will also be two new return Sunday services, and an improvement to evening services on the Cambrian Coast between Barmouth and Pwllheli. The new services will create 20 new train crew and depot jobs, and will be on an initial three-year trial basis.

On the Heart of Wales line, there will be extra journeys between Llandovery and Gowerton/Swansea and between Llandrindod and Shrewsbury/Crewe offering good morning commuting opportunities on Mondays – Fridays. Other return services will become more conveniently timed and the Heart of Wales Line Forum gets funding to explore the possibility of further improvements to the line.

Our Comment: The most-welcome extra services are, or course, the reason why extra passing loops were installed on the Cambrian some years ago now. The press release tells us that 'additional services on both railways are designated for a three year trial under Section 36 of the Railways Act 2005 “experimental services” designation'. The same was said when more trains to Fishguard were introduced in 2011; there seem to be a re-interpretation by the Welsh Government of the original purpose of the so-called 'Speller' (named for the late Tony Speller MP who sponsored it) legislation which covered the opening or re-opening of sections of line and/or stations, not simple timetable improvements or reductions which surely do not require this legal sanction.

Freight views

56 094 on 7 April passing Wrexham General in the evening sunshine at 19:00 with a load of timber for Chirk (George Jones). Colas have just won a five-year extension to their contract to haul logs to the Kronospan factory, UK's only fully integrated producer of 'wood-based panel products' including MDF and chipboard as well as laminated flooring.

The trailing end view shows the length of the train, counted at 20 bogie wagons. Picture by George Jones, who writes: The train (12:40 Carlisle - Chirk) was reported running 4 minutes early, and approached from the north end with a red aspect still showing for the Watery Road level crossing. 56 094 came to a stand opposite me and presented a nice portrait in the evening light before getting the yellow and moving off when the crossing gates closed for the 19:05 passenger train (17:08 Birmingham International to Llandudno) to pass. A closely timed movement to clear the single line section to the north.'

56 094 heads across the the Roodee viaduct, past Chester Racecourse, four days later, on 11 April with another load of timber for Chirk (Bob Greenhalgh).

Another evening freight through Wrexham, on the unpredictable days when it runs 'as required', is the return of the empty wagons which have brought coal from Scotland to the cement works at Penyffordd. Above, on 9 April, DB Schenker 66 053 brings the train of open box wagons across the connection from the Borderlands line through Platform 3 at Wrexham General (George Jones). At Croes Newydd, south of the station, the locomotive would run round its train before hauling it north along the main line to Chester, Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria and Hebden Bridge to Doncaster Belmont marshalling yard.

The Beeching Legacy

John Hobbs writes: 'There is a new book on North Wales by Philip Horton: The Beeching Legacy: The Cambrian Lines, North Wales and the Wirral Peninsula.

I have been fortunate to have twenty photographs included in it, plus some from a friend from my teenager years who now lives in London. 

There are some mistakes, such as a mention of a through train to Liverpool (Central), but apart from that it is an interesting perspective of the changes inflicted on the railways in the area by Dr Beeching.

It is produced by Silver Link publishing for £20.

Progress at Altrincham

For some time now Altrincham station and surrounds have been a building site, with apparently slow progress being made on developing a new 'transport interchange' to replace the 'old-fashioned' (1970s) interchange with its unfriendly bus stands. A major visible step forward occurred over the night of 12-13 April, when the span of a new footbridge, which will have lift access, was positioned by crane. Mike Battman took these pictures on 13 April. Above, the view from the level entrance at the end of Platform 2/3, as a Northern Class 150 calls, working a Manchester - Chester service. The old footbridge, seen behind, has already been partially removed.

Hopefully the interface between the new bridge and the old canopies  will be tidied up.

Work is also under way on Platform 1 to remove the canopy roof, installed in 2006 to replace the old roof glazing which had become unsafe. We understand that a new and better roof will replace it.

An artist's impression of the future view from the bus station.

Flashback: Platform 1, now used by Metrolink trains, as it was in the 1980s, with 304 039 waiting to depart for Hazel Grove, a station which itself currently sees just one electric train per day (19:21 from Manchester Piccadilly, all the rest being diesel (Charlie Hulme).

Passenger assortment

Altrincham on 7 April, with Northern Rail 158 138 departing with a Chester to Manchester Piccadilly service; in the background a Metrolink tram awaits departure (Greg Mape).  The train will soon enter the single-track section through Navigation Road station; while the two Metrolink tracks to the right will also merge into one. Historically, all four of these tracks were 'heavy rail'.

This class 158, photographed by Greg Mape, is working the Holyhead - Rhyl shuttle provided during the engineering work at Saltney Junction on 6 April. Having called at Colwyn Bay, it is about to enter the 485-yard Penmaenrhos Tunnel.

Platform 3a, Stockport, Friday 11 April, and 'Pacer' 142 048 (coupled to a sister unit) prepares to leave at 10:13 with the quasi-legendary 'Denton Flyer' which runs to Stalybridge, one way only, once per week. One might expect such a train to run empty, but due to its fame (or notoriety) it often loads to 20 or more passengers. Its 'marginal' running cost is actually quite low, as there is a requirement Monday - Friday for an empty stock train, 09:05 Stockport to Manchester Victoria which traverses the same route as far as Denton Junction, so only a few extra miles via Stalybridge and and a guard (empty stock trains do not need one now). Some kind soul in Northern Rail has arranged for the Friday train to leave later at 10:13 to encourage pensioners and cheap-day return users to travel and sample the delights of the equally-famous Stalybridge buffet.

As an extra attraction, the train on Good Friday, 18 April will be a 'Folk Train' arranged by the Friends Groups of the line, with musicians playing on the train and afterwards in the station buffet. Passengers can, of course, return by one of the frequent trains between Stalybridge and Manchester.

Running on a surviving section of old-style jointed bullhead track - note the dip at the rail joint - 158 838 departs from Rhyl for Holyhead with the 09:09 from Birmingham International on 14 April (Roly High).

Shipping news

MV Jerome H,  built in 1985 and owned by Helms Reederei of Wilhelmshaven, Germany, Loading limestone destined for Rye (Sussex) at Llanddulas, 9 April 2014. Picture by Dave Sallery.

Past Times with John Hobbs - 50 Years ago at Chester

As it was relatively quiet on the North Wales Coast Main Line on a Saturday, in the winter, I decided I would venture out to Chester to see if there was more to see there. There was quite a bit of freight plus the chance of the odd GWR machine. Some locomotives were still cleaned at a reasonable frequency in early 1964; so some charming shots could still be obtained before the rot set in properly in 1965. Presumably recruitment of cleaners to steam depots had stopped by then so cleaning became a rarity. The four pictures here represent a reasonable haul on a winter Saturday afternoon.
Above: In nice condition, 'Jubilee' 4-6-0 45567 South Australia potters about with some wagons in Chester's freight yard; this was 29 February 1964, so an extra day that year to photograph steam in action. The former footbridge out to Hoole Road forms a backdrop; it also proved to be a fine photographic vantage point. The recently destroyed goods shed is also seen in the background while the complex steam-age track layout fills the foreground.

The 12 noon Holyhead to Willesden vans was usually provided with something large, on this occasion it was "Britannia" Class 4-6-2 70051 Firth of Forth; the locomotive is 'brewing up'  prior to departure. This train was booked in Rhyl from 2.29 to 2.54 pm  but it always followed the 1.45 Llandudno to Derby DMU at about 2.45pm through Prestatyn. On the other hand, it was booked to stand in Chester from 3.36pm  to 3.38pm, to change footplate crews, but always arrived early and usually shunted some vans on or off the consist before departing on time to Willesden, it ran via the independent lines at Crewe and avoided the station.

Birkenhead "Crabs" were usual fare at Chester: here 42783 puts on a fine display on a rake of coal empties, which I presume is heading for the Potteries coalfield, The footbridge at the east end of the station forms a frame while the yard seems to have a large number of Palvans (vans designed with wider doors to load pallets) # present.

In the Chester bays 'Grange' class 4-6-0 6839 Hewell Grange is also getting steam up, ready  to leave with the 2.30 to Paddington the 'Inter City'. This train would inevitably pass the combined 12.50pm Bangor / 1.05pm Llandudno to Euston on the curve outside the station; this was due to arrive at 2.32pm, so there were two London-bound trains progressing in opposite directions, the former due in Paddington at 6.59pm and the latter in Euston at 6.27 pm.
It looks like the 'rot set in' earlier on the ex-Western Region depots as the 'Grange' is quite scruffy though still with cab numberplates and nameplates. A Western Region  brown & cream liveried Mk 1 brake leads the formation while the iconic towers of the Italianate station building can be seen in the background with the tall chimney from the lead works looming in the distance, all on 29 February 1964.

Fijian loco, now and then

Following on from the picture last week by Peter Basterfield (reprised above) of HC972 (Lautoka No. 11, to become FIJI next month) ...

... Mark Hambly, editor of the Statfold Railway's Guide Book and Stock List, sends two pictures of it when it arrived at Statfold for restoration in October 2012, along with the following notes about this interesting machine.

Lautoka No.11 was one of an initial batch of three 0-6-0s ordered from Hudswell Clarke in 1911 specifically for trunk hauls of sugar cane from field to mill on the extensive 2' 0" gauge rail system of the Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) Company Limited in Fiji. At the time a major expansion of the sugar mill railways on the island of Viti Levu was under way, with Lautoka Mill's main line eventually extending 82 miles to the south, hence the need for powerful locomotives with sufficient coal and water capacity to make non-stop runs of up to 40 miles with loaded cane trains weighing up to 300 tons.

The design was developed from a pair of 0-6-0Ts (works numbers 932 & 933) built by Hudswell Clarke for CSR the previous year, one for Fiji and one for Australia, and was such a success that over 30 further similar locomotives were built for use by CSR in Fiji and Queensland over a period of 40 years. The last pair for Fiji were built in 1950, 12 years after a Hudswell diesel had been delivered there.

No.11 left Hudswell’s works in Leeds on 20 February 1912 for Manchester from where it was shipped to Fiji, followed by sisters 10 & 12 (works numbers 973 & 974) to Liverpool on 28 February and Manchester on 6 March respectively.

Dieselisation of the long-distance cane hauls began in the mid-1950s and most of the steam locomotives were withdrawn and scrapped during the 1960s. No.11 survived scrapping and was returned to working order for Lautoka Mill's 75th anniversary in 1978 when it worked a special passenger train for participating dignitaries.

In 1995 it was converted to diesel power for use on the Coral Coast Railway’s tourist train, a modification which resulted in parts of the firebox and boiler being cut away, creating major obstacles to subsequent restoration. Arriving back in the UK in 2011, No.11 came to Statfold in October 2012 and, despite the many challenges involved, was successfully steamed and began running-in during February 2014.

The Statfold Barn railway is a private line in Staffordshire, which can be visited by the public only at Enthusiasts' days for which application in advance is required: See the Statfold Barn Railway website for application details and information about the railway.

Vale of Rheidol news - by Harry Saville

Art Exhibition at Devil's Bridge: The Vale of Rheidol Railway is to host an exhibition of work by the renowned wildlife artists Terence Lambert and Dee Doody in the historic Booking Hall at Devil's Bridge, during June.  The exhibition will run from Monday, 16th June until Sunday, 22nd June and will be open to both railway passengers and passing members of the public.  Terence Lambert is especially well known for his paintings of birds, having almost exclusively painted them for thirty years.  His work on display will be complemented by a film specially produced by Dee Doody.  Dee Doody has gained a reputation for producing emotive, high quality nature films.  In his production for the Vale of Rheidol, he hopes to showcase the wildlife of the Rheidol Valley, Red Kites and Pine Martens included.  The exhibition will also display plans of the Vale of Rheidol's ambitious new visitor centre based at Devil's Bridge, which will incorporate its own art gallery and cinema.

New Viewing 'Windows': The Vale of Rheidol Railway, in partnership with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), has created eleven new viewing 'windows' along a two mile stretch of forested line between Rheidol Falls Halt and Devil's Bridge.  The line runs along a ledge high above the Rheidol Valley floor following the contours of the mountain side, from which dramatic views can be afforded.  Spectacular views of Rheidol Falls and the Cymystwyth Quarry that were lost to rampant forest growth have been reopened.  The windows, which are 50-100m wide have required around 250 trees to be felled, fitting in with NRW's long term Age Structuring Plan.  This tree felling will enable new, natural growth, including flowers and native Ash trees to grow.  The work was completed over an intensive two week period by railway staff, external contractors Advanced Forestry & Garden Services and Natural Resources Wales. 

New Walker's Guide: The Vale of Rheidol's newly enlarged shop is to stock a new title, "Railway Walks in the Vale of Rheidol", by Maurice Kyle.  Maurice Kyle has been a volunteer on the Vale of Rheidol's Station Restoration Project since 2012.  The book, published privately by Maurice Kyle and to be sold exclusively by the Vale of Rheidol complements the Station Restoration Project, which has seen waymarks placed on paths higher up in the Rheidol Valley so even the casual walker can find their way to the various halts along the line. Due to be published in late April, some content from the book is available in PDF leaflets available for free download from the railway's website, along with  much more information about the railway.

News from the Llangollen Railway

Llangollen and the River Dee on 9 April: visiting 2-6-0 5322 appears to be emerging from the bridge with a train from Ruabon, but as we all know, it is just running round its train at the end of the line (John Hobbs).

5322 passes Farmer Pierce's land on Wednesday 9th April with the final departure of the day, from Llangollen;, the horse displays some interest in proceedings (John Hobbs).

On 12 April, the Class 108 railcar worked three driver experience trips (Llangollen to Carrog and return), seen above at Berwyn (Peter Dickinson).

The restored Taff Vale Railway tank loco (see last issue) left Llangollen on Thursday 10 April headed for the Gwili Railway via Cardiff. Before it left the two first year apprentices Luke Denoven and Harry Jones posed in front of it for the camera of Llangollen Railway Chief Engineer Dave Owen. Both have played a major part in the loco's restoration from a kit of part to a static display model.

On the Corwen extension, the the track laid into the Dwyrain Corwen East station site on Thursday 3 April. On 4 April it was the turn of the buffer stop to be installed. Above, the view of the station length from bridge 29 with Corwen on the horizon (George Jones).

By 13:30 the buffer stop - once at Plas Bonwm - was delivered, swung round and deposited at the end of the track to await connection. Mission (more or less) accomplished (George Jones).

To paraphrase Churchill, this is not the end of the project, but it is the beginning of the next stage to install the platform and access, ballast the track and get it tamped, with a view to first trains in the summer. The next challenge will be the building and installation of the 100 metre platform and associated access ramp leading off the embankment. It is evident this work will require the employment of some expertise to achieve this installation to the required standard and appropriate help is being sought.

Congratulations to all those who have contributed to this achievement, against all the odds and frustrations, and  have delivered the product.

Measurement Train (2)

From time to time the 'Down Main' line opposite Platform 4 at Stockport is used for layovers of Network Rail measurement trains. Basking in the sunshine on the morning of 11 April was a formation including a locomotive very familiar to readers of this page, Arriva blue 67 003.

A chance for a look at some of the vehicles in the train. One of the more distinctive coaches in the Network Rail fleet is Overhead Line Equipment Test Car 975091, which once carried the Greek-sounding appellation Mentor - a contrived acronym for 'Mobile Electrical Network Testing, Observation and Recording' and also the more prosaic 'Test Car 3.' It was converted at Swindon from Mark 1 Brake Corridor Second 34616 built in 1955 (Thanks to the excellent Train Testing website for this information). It has two loco-style pantographs, enabling the interaction between the pantograph and wires to be monitored.

Lights, camera housing and an observation window are fitted adjacent to each pantograph.

The rest of the consist: 72631, a M2 2F coach which carries a number in the electric multiple unit series, from its days on Gatwick Express duties. Its current use is the new 'Plain Line Pattern Recognition' system in which moving images of the track are processed by a computer system programmed to look in real-time for signs of faults.

Mark 2F 'support coach' 5981, which still carries its original number, is used for staff accommodation.

Finally, 6263, a former guard's and parcel van, now fitted with diesel generators to power the equipment on the train. In the background, now converted to flats, the 'Blue Bell' pub well-remembered by generations of Stockport County supporters.

About to lead the train back home to Derby, the rest of its itinerary to Rugby and Northampton having been cancelled, was 67 016. Class 67s are used, rather than the 31s and 37s seen on other Network Rail trains, to allow this train to run at high speeds. Note the colour discrepancy between the coaches: the generator car is painted in the 'warning panel yellow' used on the front of locos, darker than what is now the standard Network Rail yellow.

North Wales Coast home pageArchivePrevious Notice Board